The unanswered questions

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The phrase unanswered questions or undeclared questions (Sanskrit avyākṛta, Pali: avyākata - "unfathomable, unexpounded"[1]), in Buddhism, refers to a set of common philosophical questions that Buddha refused to answer, according to Buddhist texts. The Pali texts give only ten, the Sanskrit texts fourteen questions.

Fourteen questions[edit]

According to their subject matter the questions can be grouped in four categories.

Questions concerning the existence of the world in time

1. Is the world eternal?

2. ...or not?

3. ...or both?

4. ...or neither?

(Pali texts omit "both" and "neither")

Questions concerning the existence of the world in space

5. Is the world finite?

6. ...or not?

7. ...or both?

8. ...or neither?

(Pali texts omit "both" and "neither")

Questions referring to personal identity

9. Is the self identical with the body?

10. ...or is it different from the body?

Questions referring to life after death

11. Does the Tathagata (Buddha) exist after death?

12. ...or not?

13. ...or both?

14. ...or neither?

Pali Canon[edit]

Majjhima Nikaya 63 [2] & 72 [3] in the Pali canon contain a list of ten unanswered questions about certain views (ditthi):

  1. The world is eternal.
  2. The world is not eternal.
  3. The world is (spatially) infinite.
  4. The world is not (spatially) infinite.
  5. The soul (jiva) is identical with the body.
  6. The soul is not identical with the body.
  7. The Tathagata (a perfectly enlightened being) exists after death.
  8. The Tathagata does not exist after death.
  9. The Tathagata both exists and does not exist after death.
  10. The Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist after death.

Sabbasava-Sutta[edit]

The Sabbasava Sutta (Majjhima Nikaya 2[4]) also mentions 16 questions which are seen as "unwise reflection" and lead to attachment to views relating to a self. [5]

  1. What am I?
  2. How am I?
  3. Am I?
  4. Am I not?
  5. Did I exist in the past?
  6. Did I not exist in the past?
  7. What was I in the past?
  8. How was I in the past?
  9. Having been what, did I become what in the past?
  10. Shall I exist in future?
  11. Shall I not exist in future?
  12. What shall I be in future?
  13. How shall I be in future?
  14. Having been what, shall I become what in future?
  15. Whence came this person?
  16. Whither will he go?

The Buddha states that it is unwise to be attached to both views of having and perceiving a self and views about not having a self. Any view which sees the self as "permanent, stable, everlasting, unchanging, remaining the same for ever and ever" is "becoming enmeshed in views, a jungle of views, a wilderness of views; scuffling in views, the agitation (struggle) of views, the fetter of views."[6]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Cula Malunkhyaputta Sutta in Majjhima Nikaya (Volume II, sutta 63) is a short canonical scripture, which contains the "unanswered questions" as well as the Parable of the Poison Arrow that alludes to the attempt of solving these questions as a waste of time.

  1. ^ http://vedabase.net/a/avyakrta
  2. ^ "Cula-Malunkyovada Sutta,Translation by Thanissaro Bhikkhu". Retrieved 2014-06-26. 
  3. ^ "Aggi-Vacchagotta Sutta,Translation by Thanissaro Bhikkhu". Retrieved 2014-06-26. 
  4. ^ "Sabbasava Sutta, Translation by Thanissaro Bhikkhu". Retrieved 2013-06-26. 
  5. ^ Douglas W. Shrader, Between Self and No-Self: Lessons from the Majjhima Nikaya
  6. ^ Douglas W. Shrader, Between Self and No-Self: Lessons from the Majjhima Nikaya

External links[edit]